Importance of Sangat
This article is part of the series on the "Message of Gurbani"
"Sangat" is congregation. "Sadh" is saint. "Sat" is true.
All these three words refer to a gathering of, or a meeting with, God-oriented people. The company may come together to say prayers to God, sing kirtan, listen to kathas or discuss spirituality and religious matters. They may meet in a Gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship, or at home, or anywhere else. Most commonly, sangat would gathers in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib - the Sikh holy book.
Wherever people gather to sing the praise of the Lord, or to talk about Him, they are referred to as "Sat Sangat" or "Sadh Sangat" – "holy gathering". Sangat is any gathering, but within the field of a religious faith, it refers to a true, wise or holy gathering.
The fruit that one gets?
Man is known by the company (or sangat) that he keeps. Man is the result of his environment. Bhagat Kabir says: "ਜੋ ਜੈਸੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਸੋ ਤੈਸੋ ਫਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥ Jo jaisī sangaṯ milai so ṯaiso fal kẖā▫e. According to the company it keeps, so are the fruits it eats." (SGGS p 1369).
So the company that one keeps is a great force and it plays a big role in shaping the person. Those who live in the company of thieves, robbers and evil persons, acquire evil ways of life and are bound to become thieves, robbers, etc. Those who keep the company of saintly people are shaped in the saintly mould and destined to follow the path of spirituality.
The Sikh Gurus laid great emphasis on attending on holy assembly. The congregation influences the personality and character of the devotees. Sat Sangat produces divine harmony and internal bliss. It helps in the attainment of Truth but sangat only becomes available with the blessing of God. The society of the truthful is not available without good fortune and His Grace.
In the presence of the sangat the novice receives the Guru's instructions and acquires the qualities of the Sadh Sangat through the Bani (God's Word) recited from the Holy Granth. Like children consciously and unconsciously imitating their parents, the Sikhs become imitators of their masters, the ideal human being and acquire some of their positive traits.
The Guru tells us that in the Sat Sangat is found "Satgur chatsal" or Satguru's school. It is in this school of the holy congregation that the "har gun" or "virtues of the Lord" are learnt by the Sikh or "student of spirituality" thus:
|SGGS Page 1316 Full Shabad|
|ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਚਟਸਾਲ ਹੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਸਿਖਾ ॥ |
Saṯsangaṯ saṯgur cẖatsāl hai jiṯ har guṇ sikẖā.
It is clear that the Sat Sangat is a training ground for the Sikh and that it is here that the guidance is found for the beginner. As on learns the rules of spirituality, then you come to a position where you can teach others. In this way the newcomers become the new teachers and the teachers become grand-masters or brahmgyanis and provide spiritual direction for humanity.
Finding Sadh Sangat?
In Kaljug, it is difficult to find good company let alone Sat Sangat. So how does one find this "good holy company" and how does one recognise the company that you have found as Sadh Sangat ie. How do know that the company that you have found is true and holy?
The answer to the first part is not easy. Gurbani tells us that " ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੨॥ Sāḏẖsangaṯ vadbẖāgī pā▫ī▫ai. " (SGGS p 180). So it is not an easy tasks to be granted with good company. One needs to actively seek to find the company of wise and saintly people. Do Ardas and ask for the gift of good company as this is not easy to find. All prayers are answered and with Waheguru's blessing, you will be endowed with sadh sangat.
However, the second part has been answered by the Guru in very clear terms thus:
|SGGS Page 72 Full Shabad|
|ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਕੈਸੀ ਜਾਣੀਐ ॥ ਜਿਥੈ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ॥ |
Saṯsangaṯ kaisī jāṇī▫ai. Jithai eko nām vakẖāṇī▫ai.
Sat Sangat is where the Name of the One Lord is recited. If you go to a gathering and all you find is discussions, arguments and socialising, then that is not "Sat Sangat" – turn around and leave. In the Sat Sangat, the true name of the Lord will be chanted or sang or discussed!
Benefits of Sangat?
The Sikh Holy Scripture refers to the many benefits of keeping good company. Many hundreds of shabads in the Guru Granth Sahib are devoted to this facet of human life. The Guru has advised the Sikh in great details on this matter, which is of great significance to a person's life and well being.
The Sadh Sangat has so much value and importance, but this value is not appreciated by most of us and we do not take advantage of this opportunity. It is only with God blessing that one find the chance to be with the company of the holy, yet one still never appreciates this and does not see the purpose of it. That person does not realise that God is saving them from the terrifying worldly ocean.
The numerous shabads about the benefits of sangat can be grouped into various categories as follows:
One becomes Pure
In many places in Gurbani, the Guru tells us that by keeping company of Sadh Sangat, ones negativity and sins are dispelled and one become pure and more aligned with the Guru.
|SGGS Page 44 Full Shabad|
|ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਰਮਲਾ ਕਟੀਝ ਜਮ ਕੀ ਫਾਸ ॥|
Sĝḝẖsangaṯ hoė nirmalĝ katīai jam kī fĝs.
The Guru tells us that when we keep company of the holy Sangat and sing his praises then,
- one becomes "…immaculate and pure" (p45) ; "…very pure and sacred" (p392) "…becomes spotlessly pure" (p747)
- "….the Lord Himself will take care" of you (p45) and the "...noose of death shall be cut away"; (p44)
- your lifestyle will become "pure and true" (p431); "….even a sinner …will become pure". (p631)
- "....shall be rid of the cycle of birth and death." (p104); "….you shall not come to be reincarnated again". (p1220)
Fear and doubt depart
In this day and age, the world is gripped with fear and doubt. One does not know which way to turn and what is around the next corner. Everyone is looking for happiness and peace. This cannot be found in materialist items. Levels of stress are increasing by the day and illness and disease is on the rise. Only by turning inwards can one steady this trembling mind. The Guru tells us that peace can only be found by meditating on the Lord that: "… meditate on the True Lord, my foolish mind. Only then shall you find peace" (p1176).
In the company of the Sadh Sangat one gains confidence and trust and fear, sorrow and doubt are dispelled. The Guru tells us:
|SGGS Page 193 Full Shabad|
|ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਭੈ ਭਰਮ ਮਿਟਾਇਆ ॥੩॥|
Sĝḝẖsang bẖai bẖaram mitĝiĝ. ॥3॥
In this Shabad, the Guru tells us to keep company with Sadh Sangat so that our worries, fear and doubt disappear. This is further reinforced and expanded in other similar shabads where Guru adds that by joining with the Sadh Sangat…
- "My fear of birth and death has been abolished …" (p207); "… the fear of death departs." (p598); "… the fear of reincarnation is gone" (p899)
- "…and then one is not afflicted by deadly pain." (p1085) and all "His sorrows are dispelled…" (p1218)
- "… all your relations shall be saved" (p461)
- "…my pains have been taken away" (p899)
Find peace and tranquillity
We live in very troubled times. The future is unpredictable and there is pain and anguish among all; no peace can be found. People are unhappy about their situation and they find that they are unable to change this situation. There is too much violence in the world; many wars are going on all the time; there is acute friction among communities; inflation is too high; survival is just too difficult; one has to be on guard at all times; and the stress is overwhelming.
Gurbani provides a solution for all these troubles and guides us to seek the company of "Sadh sangat" thus:
|SGGS Page 818 Full Shabad|
|ਬਿਸਰਾਮ ਪਾਝ ਮਿਲਿ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਤਾ ਤੇ ਬਹੜਿ ਨ ਧਾਉ ॥੧॥ |
Bisrĝm pĝ¬ė mil sĝḝẖsang ṯĝ ṯė bahuṛ na ḝẖĝ¬o. ॥1॥
In addition to obtaining peace, many other benefits are derived in the company of good sangat. Bani has many tuks which help us understand about these gain and advantages. Below is a summary of a few such lines from the holy text:
- "Collecting the poison of Maya, people think of all sorts of evil. But peace is found only by vibrating and meditating on the Lord; with the Saints, in the Sangat, the Society of the Saints, meet the True Guru, the Holy Guru." (p1297)
- "The music of intuitive peace, poise and tranquility wells up within.." (p105); "All peace is found in the Sat Sangat… " (p180); "…tranquil peace is found in the Saadh Sangat " (p1181)
- "I am absorbed into the Lord. " (p384); "It is the cure for evil passions, unique, unequalled and peace-giving;… " (p404)
- "Dharmic faith, patience, peace and poise are obtained by vibrating upon the Lord in the Saadh Sangat" (p460)
- "Without the Sat Sangat, no one finds any peace… " (p1200)
Bad company or without Sangat
The company one keeps has major effects on ones mind, your attitudes and the outlook that one has towards others. Your company may lead either to benefits and improved perception of the world or to harm, wickedness and corruption. Depending on whether ones company is that of pure, eminent and honourable people or people who are depraved, sinful and evil. The effect of ones companions does not appear suddenly, but is a gradual process that unfolds with time. While it is generally accepted that bad company is not beneficial for any person, Gurbani goes on to say that without good company or sangat ones life on this planet will be fruitless. The first text here outlines the harm that occurs from keeping bad company:
|SGGS Page 1369 Full Shabad|
|ਕਬੀਰ ਮਾਰੀ ਮਰਉ ਕਸੰਗ ਕੀ ਕੇਲੇ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਜ ਬੇਰਿ ॥ ਉਹ ਝੂਲੈ ਉਹ ਚੀਰੀਝ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗ ਨ ਹੇਰਿ ॥੮੮॥|
Kabīr mĝrī marao kusang kī kėlė nikat jo bėr. Uh jẖūlai uh cẖīrīai sĝkaṯ sang na hėr. ॥88॥
It is accepted that bad company should be avoided. But Bani tells us that without sangat, one may waste their life. The text below summarises some of the points which highlight the harm caused by having no sangat:
- "Their bodies are corpses, without the Saadh Sangat…" (p190)
- "Without the Sangat, all remain like beasts and animals.… " (p427)
- "He finds no place of rest without the Saadh Sangat; to whom should he go and cry? … " (p532)
- "Prays Nanak, without the Saadh Sangat, the whole world is false. … " (p547)
- "Without the Saadh Sangat, love for the Lord does not well up; without this love, Your devotional worship cannot be performed.… " (p694)
- "You have not practiced charity, donations, cleansing baths or austerities. Without the Saadh Sangat, your life has gone in vain.… " (p906)
- "Without the Saadh Sangat, one dies wandering around in confusion, performing all sorts of rituals.… " (p928)
- " I have examined the four ages, and without the Sangat, egotism does not depart. " (p1098)
- " You must acknowledge this, that without the Sangat, it [person] turns into ashes.… " (p1375)
So, one should make every effort to find good sangat of Gurmukh people so that the thought of the Lord is always awake in your mind. The "Society of the good" or Sadh Sangat gives birth to modesty, patience, tolerance, service, righteousness, simplicity, an astute consciousness, truth, love, justice, friendliness, mercy and contentment. Bhai Gurdas declared that the spiritual goal could be achieved through Sangat and Naam Simran.
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